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Jun 1, 2011 12:00 AM

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William J. O'Neil founded O'Neil Data Systems in 1973 to produce time-sensitive investment research publications. O'Neil went on to launch Investor's Business Daily in 1984. In 2011, thanks to its arsenal of continuous-feed inkjet web presses, the Los Angeles-based company is delivering massive amounts of customized information at speeds that were unfathomable even a few years ago.

“How time flies,” says Jim Lucanish, O'Neil's president. “Five years ago, [we had to] produce six million pages for a client. We had 34 cut sheet machines and a screaming client. It was a mess — it took three weeks to produce the job.”

A year after the inaugural attempt, O'Neil tried producing the same job with five toner-based roll-fed machines with marginally better results. Its newest press, the HP T400, can print up to 5,200 full-color, letter-size pages per minute. These days, highly personalized color projects with runs in the millions are a walk in the park. As O'Neil's website declares: “With a growing daily capacity of 20 million letter-size pages we have the bandwidth to get any job done.”

From one to inkjet press to one of each

Alert readers will recall that O'Neil was a beta installation for the first HP T300 30-inch Inkjet Web Press in 2009. The company now has the complete HP inkjet web press portfolio: the HP T200, T300, T350 and the new 42-inch, T400. Just for good measure, two HP Indigo digital presses are on hand for cover work.

Operations manager Steve Ellithorpe says each inkjet press has specific production strength. “The 30-inch T300 and T350 are perfect for letters and statements,” he explains. “TheT400 lets us put rolls side by side, doubling our throughput and the 20-inch T200 fits all of our existing finishing equipment.”

O'Neil teamed with HP to showcase the 600-fpm twin-engine press for a group of international journalists and consultants this past March. “The press was delivered in November 2010 and operational in mid-December,” Lucanish reported. “Uptime has been fantastic: 80 percent.”

A roll-to-roll workflow gives O'Neil maximum flexibility. The 42-inch paper path is compatible with standard sized (20.5-inch) digital web press finishing equipment. An optional slitter at the end of the press converts the roll into side-by-side webs. A zero-speed splicer, also optional, lets users change rolls in three minutes vs. the average 10-minute manual switch.

O'Neil produces millions of saddlestiched booklets. Installing the T400 posed the challenge of converting the existing 1-up files into the most efficient grouping for the new press. With some help from the imposition experts at Ultimate Technographics, O'Neil calculated the best fit. Ultimate, an HP Graphics Solutions partner, provides scalable job imposition tools — users can impose separate variable-data jobs side-by-side.

Other add-ons at O'Neil include pasters and turret rewinders. The turret rewinder, which HP is still developing, lets users unload a roll without stopping the press. Vistors got the inside scoop on finishing and paper transport system support for the HP T400 from EMT, Magnum Digital Solutions, MBO and Muller Martini. CMC, Compart, GMC Software Technology, Hunkeler, Lasermax Roll Systems, Tecnau, Videk and WEKO also showcased their solutions.

In 2008, HP acquired Exstream, a unified platform for high-volume transactional, on-demand, and interactive document generation. The communications management software lets O'Neil compose complex, variable-data document streams at full press speeds.

“That's the best buy HP ever made,” declares Lucanish. The seamless workflow streamlines the personalized production of MarketSmith, a weekly financial research publication as well as statements, welcome packets and similar applications.

Mark Rosson, O'Neil's vice president of sales and marketing, says inkjet technology is helping O'Neil's expansion efforts. “We've been able to expand to different verticals,” he says. “Our clients were always resistant to color due to cost, but with the new technology, color is becoming a value add at a very reasonable cost. The traditional click charge is eliminated — You pay for what you use.”

Time is on O'Neil's side now

Faster throughput and higher quality at lower costs have helped O'Neil grow its healthcare, financial, publishing and direct mail business. Marketers are particularly interested in O'Neil's personalization and color capabilities. “We can [produce] rich content for direct mail campaigns with demographic and psychographic imaging in color on both the document and the envelope,” says Rosson.

One industry analyst calls the T400 “a revolutionary device.” Lucanish calls it a game changer. “When our sales team presents new ideas for services we can turn on a dime.”

Scaling up

HP Inkjet Web Presses incorporate modular, scalable printing architecture in a compact, 1,200-nozzles-per-inch printhead design. Stacking 4.25-inch printheads across the web supports different widths. For example, five printheads in each printbar span the HP T200's 22-inch web while seven printheads span the 30-inch web of the HP T300/T350 and 10 printheads span the 42-inch HP T400. Multiple nozzles address each pixel to minimize defects and reduce waste.

Each printhead is individually replaceable without tools or mechanical adjustments. Specific printheads are replaced rather than the entire printbar.

HP's bonding agent enables the T400 to print on a wide range of standard uncoated offset stock and groundwood. The colorless liquid is applied precisely where ink is to be printed and reportedly improves pigment adhesion to the paper with high black optical density and good color saturation. Other HP inkjet substrate options include ColorPRO (AbitiBowater, Georgia Pacific and International Paper) treated uncoated stocks as well inkjet-treated coated stocks (Appleton).

MICR, a technology commonly used in check printing, currently is offered with the HP T300 and T350, and scheduled to be available with T200 and T400 models sold later this year. With a single pass, direct and transactional mail printers can produce balance transfer check mailers, rebate check mailers and other popular direct mail products.


What's under the hood?

The HP T400 has two print engines for duplex printing and up to three dryer modules integrated inside each print engine under the arch. Note the horizontal turn bar and duplex inline process monitor on the output side of the second print engine.

The web of paper first passes right-to-left (as shown) above the dryers through a web steering unit and in-feed nip drive near the center of the module. Next it passes over the arched printing zones, left-to-right through the dryers and finally right-to-left out of the module beneath the dryer. Float IR dryers use a combination of medium wavelength IR lamps and hot air convention. Each engine can be configured with up to three dryer zones.

O'Neil expands in Texas

O'Neil Data Systems will soon open a 218,000-sq.- ft. plant in Plano, TX. It will be an iron-free zone — additional HP T400 presses will anchor the all-digital operation.

The new facility, which previously housed a telecommunications manufacturing operation, will be dedicated to enhanced distribution. “Separating mail streams by location is something most companies only talk about. We'll actually be doing it,” says O'Neil's Jim Lucanish.


Katherine O'Brien is the editor of AMERICAN PRINTER. Contact her at

See for yourself

Pitney Bowes puts inkjet's power in the transactional world

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Pitney Bowes' solution encourages clients to eliminate preprinted forms and envelopes and to embrace “The White Paper Factory” concept of cranking out colorful and highly personalized communications. Pitney Bowes teams the IntelliJet engine with its output management software and high-speed mail finishing systems.